Two Yazidi women who survived sexual enslavement by Islamic State before escaping and becoming “inspirational” advocates for their community in Iraqhave won the EU’s prestigious Sakharov human rights prize.
Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar were abducted with other Yazidi women in August 2014 when their home village of Kocho in Sinjar, northern Iraq, was attacked by Isis jihadis. It was one of the darkest episodes Iraq has suffered at the hands of the terrorist group.
The annual Sakharov prize for freedom of thought, established in 1988, is named after the Soviet physicist and outspoken dissident Andrei Sakharov and is awarded to “individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe”. It has previously been awarded to the likes of Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.
The EU described Murad and Aji Bashar as “public advocates for the Yazidi community in Iraq, a religious minority that has been the subject of a genocidal campaign by IS militants”. Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the European parliament’s liberal ALDE group, said the pair were “inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality”.
The EU’s prize will again put a spotlight on the plight of Yazidis, some of whom are still held in Isis captivity. Although some have been rescued, the majority of those taken by Isis are still being held, with about 3,600 mostly women and children missing.